Iâ€™ve mentioned before that multi-generational travel (where grandparents, parents and grandchildren vacation together) is a growing segment of the travel industry.Â Iâ€™m planning a trip this year with my extended family â€“ four grown children and their spouses and seven grandchildren ages 1 through 7 as well as their great grandparents and an aunt, uncle and cousin!Â For us this will be the third such trip.Â In the past we have rented a beach house on the Outer Banks and we have gone cruising.Â This year I wanted to try something new.Â
As I was thinking about planning my 2011 Family Vacation I received some industry literature from Club Med Sandpiper Bay on the East Coast of Florida on the Saint Lucie River.Â Club Medâ€™s only resort located in the US, Club Med Sandpiper Bay recently underwent a $25 million upgrade and renovation.Â In addition to the uniqueness of its US location (Club Med has overÂ 75 worldwide locations) this resort caters to guests of all ages â€“ most importantly for multi-generational vacations â€“ children.Â â€śCome see usâ€ť the email read!Â Since I already had an American Express Advisory BoardÂ Meeting scheduled in South Florida in February I thought I’d take Club Med up on their offer.
Rosa and I had been to a Club Med in Bermuda some 20 years ago so I was intrigued and interested to see what Club Med Sandpiper Bay was all about.Â Was it the kind of vacation that Iâ€™d enjoy â€“ and more importantly was it something my grown children and our grandchildren would enjoy?
For many people the best way to answer that question is to speak with someone who has been there (hopefully you think of travel counselors when looking for that person!).Â Wellâ€¦.in this instance that wasnâ€™t possible, since no one had been there since the major redo of the resort (the resort had been closed for 6 months and just recently reopened).Â But I was being given an opportunity â€“ visit the club myself and determine if it was the venue for the 2011 McElroy Family Vacation.Â Again as I mentioned in my blog on Alaska cruising, travel consultants take â€śFamiliarization Tripsâ€ť so we can provide insight into various vacation opportunities (yes â€“ it is one of the fun things about being in this business!).
We arrived in West Palm Beach International Airport (PBI) on Friday afternoon.Â Waiting for us was a driver from Club Med who helped us with our luggage and drove us in a town car to Saint Lucie â€“ about an hour north of West Palm Beach.Â Transportation is available from West Palm Beach, Ft Lauderdale and Miami (Ft Lauderdale and Miami are about 2 hour drives) airports.Â
Club Med is an all-inclusive resort.Â When they say all-inclusive it is true.Â Rosa and I stayed three nights and did not spend a penny above the base price for our vacation.Â Meals are all included and wine or soft drinks (or milk) are served at all meals (no cost for the house wine or the soda).Â Mixed drinks are part of the price as are most of the activities.Â While the food is not as â€śgourmetâ€ť as many cruises, the variety is excellent as is the quality of the food.Â You serve yourself (buffet lines) and you donâ€™t have to worry about your children disturbing other guests â€“ because they all have children also. (By the way, Club Med also provides baby food for the littlest ones.)Â Thatâ€™s not to say that a couple wonâ€™t enjoy the resort.Â There is an â€śadults onlyâ€ť dining area (as well as an â€śadults onlyâ€ť pool and hot tub!).
The most distinctive elements of Club Med Sandpiper Bay are the childrenâ€™s programs.Â There is Baby Club Med (ages 4-23 months), Petit Club Med (2-3 years), a Mini-Club Med (4-10 years) and a Junior Club Med (11-17 years).Â They also have a â€śPyjama Clubâ€ť â€“ night-time babysitting (there is an extra cost for this).Â There are free group classes for water aerobics, sailing, tennis, and a circus school for children (what fun!), golf, rollerblading, skateboarding and most exciting of all â€“ a flying trapeze!Â They have beach volleyball, basketball, 5 pools (including one exclusively for the Mini-Club group (and as mentioned earlier the adults only pool).
Some initial impressions.Â
Not all rooms in the resort have been upgraded.Â They have â€śpre-renovated roomsâ€ť and â€śrenovated rooms.â€ťÂ The â€śpre-renovated roomsâ€ť are less expensive, but exactly the same size as renovated rooms.Â The first night we stayed in a â€śpre-renovated roomâ€ť and found mattresses to be quite uncomfortable.Â So if you have trouble sleeping (or have a bad back as I do) spend the extra few dollars for the â€śrenovated rooms.â€ť
The resort has basically three types of roomsâ€“ Club Rooms (the standard), Club Family Rooms (for families with children who want their children with them but separated by a wall!) and Deluxe Family Rooms (with a separate room within the suite for two children).Â Like on a cruise you donâ€™t spend a great deal of time in your room â€“ but unlike a cruise you have plenty of space â€“ Iâ€™d guess close to 500 square feet in all the rooms (while a cruise stateroom is generally less than 200 square feet).
The resort itself is beautiful â€“ stretching along the lush vegetation of the Saint Lucie River.Â
Â Although you are on the East Coast of Florida, you are not on the ocean (itâ€™s a short ride from the clubÂ if you feel a need to put your toe into the Atlantic Ocean!).Â There are 5 beautiful pools, tennis courts, a golf course (extra cost), a pitch and putt course, a mini-soccer field and, of course, the Flying Trapeze and Circus School.
Our stay was short (and in the middle of winter, so it was cold!).Â So our days consisted of lounging around, enjoying the beautiful scenery and partaking the culinary delights (and libations!).Â We watched the children â€“ and there were many â€“ enjoy the various activities.Â We took lots of pictures to bring back to the office (and the family).Â Butâ€¦the bottom line is that this was to be the vacation for the McElroy Family for the summer of 2011.Â Â When we return later this year from our multi-generational trip, Iâ€™ll give you a review of Sandpiper Bay from the eyes of children from ages 1 through 7 (as well as their Mommies and Daddies).
If you’re interested in reading more about Club Med and other all inclusive resorts check out this article from Travel Weekly.